Kids & Massage: A Holistic Solution for Stress and Related Health Conditions
by Antonia Balfour, L.Ac.
We often think of stress as an “adult” problem. But kids, too, get stressed from a wide variety of sources. Some causes of stress in kids include: starting a new school, not getting along with peers, academic pressure, needing to “fit in”, parents’ fighting or going through a divorce, and family illness. Kids can also be effected by indirect causes. If they listen to local or world news, fears about safety can emerge. If they overhear parents discussing finances, they can pick up on family stress and anxiety.
It’s not always easy to recognize that stress is at the root of a child’s problems. Short-term behavioral changes like mood swings, acting out, changes in sleep patterns, nightmares, or bed-wetting can act as early indicators. Some kids manifest stress through physical symptoms like stomachaches and headaches. Others have trouble concentrating or completing schoolwork. While others may become withdrawn, spending excessive amounts of time alone.
Massage is a soothing, relaxing, and healing modality used to overcome stress in children and adults alike. Many cultures around the world rely on massaging children on a regular basis, as positive health results can be noticed immediately.
Modern clinical research shows a number of children’s conditions that benefit from regular massage:
· Children show improvement in insomnia and better quality of sleep with regular massage.
· Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) exhibited less hyperactivity and more on-task behavior, and generally were happier with regular massage treatments
· Children with chronic illness show a reduction in stress when massage is incorporated into their treatment regimen.
· Pre-schoolers show better performance on intellectual and manual tests following a 15-minute massage.
· Teens show reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety with regular massage.
· If stress hormones are chronically elevated, the hormone cortisol destroys healthy immune cells. Massage reduces both stress and stress hormones, helping the immune system heal the body and keep it healthy.
Young children can be massaged at home for short periods of time. By the time they reach their teens, most individuals respond better to a massage therapist.
Whatever your child’s condition, proper rest, good nutrition, and meaningful conversation are essential to the healing process. Assure your child that some level of stress is normal and that other people share those feelings. But if your child needs additional help overcoming stress or a stress-related condition, massage is one modality that will not only be enjoyable, but will provide noticeable results.